Monday, January 7, 2008

Texas paper calls for better VA healthcare

Austin American Statesman


Statesman: "Returning veterans must know they can get quick,

effective help from Veterans Affairs when they are troubled. They

shouldn't have to wait for two or three months for an evaluation."

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Story here...

Story below:


Tending to our veterans

By The Editorial Board

President Bush has a new cabinet secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs who appears to be eminently qualified for the job.

Secretary James Peake is a retired three-star general and a physician with more than three decades of experience in the Army’s medical system. He is a former surgeon general of the Army and once led the U.S. Army Medical Command at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio.

Peake has promised to fix the problems causing so much heartache for America’s veterans, particularly those returning from fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He has plenty to do. Care for veterans has been generally dreadful since the war in Iraq began, from the disgrace of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center to the shocking number of veteran suicides. VA care varies by region and by hospital and clinic, but too many veterans aren’t getting proper care.

First, Peake must smooth the transition of veterans from the military to the VA. The backlog of disability claims is shameful, and staffing problems at some centers have caused veterans to wait months for an evaluation.

At the same time, there has been a shortage of mental health care though the suicide rate for veterans is twice that of the general population. One estimate found that more than 125 veterans of all wars kill themselves each week in the United States.

That is an appalling figure that shames us as a nation. Up to 30 percent of those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are believed to suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, often requiring some mental health intervention. The suicide rate for Army veterans is above 17 percent per 100,000 people, the highest percentage in 26 years of record keeping.

Peake says he understands the gravity of the situation. He was wounded while serving as an infantry officer in Vietnam and has said he wrestled with post traumatic stress afterward.

Returning veterans must know they can get quick, effective help from Veterans Affairs when they are troubled. They shouldn’t have to wait for two or three months for an evaluation. This is an issue Peake must address immediately.

Many Americans don’t realize the size and scope of Veterans Affairs. It is the second-largest employer among the president’s cabinet posts, with nearly 250,000 employees and an $82 billion budget.

More than 5.5 million veterans receive care at the system’s 153 hospitals and 900 clinics. It is imperative that the system be able to treat those men and women returning from battle overseas who need help at once. And not just for physical problems but for mental ones, too.

Peake sailed through his confirmation process in Congress, promising to address the problems besetting the Department of Veterans Affairs. He should know that veterans deserve decent treatment when they return from war. They earned it.


posted by Larry Scott
Founder and Editor
VA Watchdog dot Org

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